Most individuals will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. For 25 percent of all people who experience low back pain, the root cause is a dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint or the joint connecting the lower spine to the pelvis. Even though this area allows for a relatively limited range of movement, it is still vulnerable to wear and tear because of the body weight it supports. The good news is there are a lot of home remedies for sacroiliac joint pain that may work for you
Inflammation from various causes such as injury, prolonged weight-bearing, stress, surgery, pregnancy, or even infections is the main culprit of sacroiliac joint pain, also known as pelvic girdle pain. In these cases, deep-seated painful sensations may radiate far beyond the sacroiliac site to the groin, buttocks, legs, and lower abdomen. This decreases one's general mobility and prevents them from effectively performing day-to-day tasks as simple as climbing the stairs or taking an outdoor stroll.
Home Remedies for Sacroiliac Joint Pain
People with sacroiliac joint pain may experience improvements in their quality of life with the following doctor-approved home remedies:
1. Use of ice and heat
The use of ice and heat for sacral pain relief, otherwise called contrasting therapy, has been a trusted pain relief practice for centuries. Alternating between cold and warm topical applications helps lessen any swelling and inflammation, while also stimulating blood flow to the sacroiliac area. This speeds up the repair and recovery of damaged tissue. The use of readily accessible household items for this method of pain relief is another welcome advantage.
Cold applications may include an ice towel, ice pack, ice cup, or even a bag of frozen fruits or vegetables. Warm applications include moist heat apparatus (such as hot packs) or even electric heating pads.
The following tips may serve as a general guide for the use of ice and heat for sacroiliac joint pain treatment:
● Make sure the temperature is at a comfortable level. Ask a trusted person to help maintain the proper temperature.
● Do not apply ice or heat on the area for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time to avoid further superficial injury.
● Taking warm showers or baths may also aid in sacral pain relief and encourage muscle relaxation.
2. Taking non-habit forming pain medications
Habit-forming drugs are medications that may cause drug dependence with use. When one becomes dependent on pain medications, their bodies are physiologically unable to function without it in their system. Psychologically-induced pain that is constant and uncontrollable may result from also this.
Examples of habit-forming drugs include opioids (OxyContin, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Lortab) and a weak opioid drug called tramadol (Ultram) that has a similar mechanism. Although such drugs do not usually cause problems for most patients who receive short-term prescriptions, the risks are still worthy of consideration.
The following non-habit forming drugs may be more favorable if taken in moderation:
Most commonly known as Tylenol, this over-the-counter medication is widely used in the United States to manage general pains, aches, and fevers. It works by blocking the central nervous system activity responsible for mediating pain.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin inhibit and control inflammation by blocking the synthesis of pain mediators called prostaglandins.
3. TNF blockers
In various studies, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) has been found in the blood samples of patients who experience chronic low back pain. TNF blockers, which are typically used for the management of arthritis, are known to inhibit the mechanism of TNF-alpha and prevent pain and inflammation. Examples of these drugs are adalimumab (Humira) and certolizumab (Cimzia).
3. Reduce or eliminate foods that lead to inflammation and choose an anti-inflammatory diet
Often not enough attention is given to the role that food and beverages play in pain management. It is posited that the immune system, which is responsible for the body's protective inflammatory functions, is highly sensitive to the things that people eat. Thus, making good food choices is vital to someone with sacroiliac joint pain.
Foods that may be harmful to our general health inevitably make it to this list. Minimizing the portions of these kinds of food in one’s diet overall will not only reduce pain but drastically decrease the risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Below are examples of foods to avoid for a pain-fighting anti-inflammatory diet.
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – bottled juices, soda, and other sweetened beverages
- Artificial trans fats – deep-fried food like fries, onion rings, and battered fish
- Vegetable and seed oils – corn oil, canola oil
- Refined carbohydrates – bread and pastries made of white flour
- Excessive alcohol
- Processed meat – hot dogs, sausages, burger patties
Whole and unprocessed food possess anti-inflammatory benefits. Physicians and nutritionists often advise patients suffering from chronic pain to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet that consists mainly of such food to improve their symptoms.
Example: The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is mostly centered on natural and whole foods like fish, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits, making it an example of anti-inflammatory eating.
Contrary to popular belief, an anti-inflammatory diet is not only meant for those who already have a particular disease. A person who wants to maintain a healthy and highly functional body may reap its benefits, too. Not only does this diet improve physical well-being, but it may also prove helpful in improving one's mental and emotional health. The consumption of anti-inflammatory food is therapeutic in more ways than one.
Here is a list of some foods to incorporate into an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Leafy green vegetables – kale, spinach, cabbage
- Eggs – organic and free-range eggs
- Fish high in omega 3 – salmon, tuna, sardines
- Berries – blueberries, raspberries
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds
- Poultry – chicken, turkey
- Organ meats – liver, kidney meats
- Cruciferous vegetables – bok choy, broccoli
- Shellfish – shrimp, mussels, clams
- Root crops – sweet potatoes, yams
4. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniques
CBT takes a non-conventional approach to pain management and delves into the principles and practices of mindfulness, meditation, and self-control to relieve symptoms of pain. CBT has proven to be effective in many groups of adults between the ages of 20 to 70 years old.
CBT's psychotherapeutic method seeks to:
- eliminate inaccurate or negative thinking to be able to face challenging situations better
- teach individuals to respond and cope with pain in a more effective way
- make pain management more cost-effective by training the individual to have long-term strategies rather than repeatedly purchase goods for pain relief
A significant functional improvement may be seen in individuals who undergo this type of pain relief approach. Other relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai-chi, breathing exercises may also be useful skills to acquire for sustainable and accessible pain management done at home.
5. Maintain a good amount of daily exercise
Any kind of strenuous movement may be almost impossible for anyone experiencing severe sacroiliac joint pain. However, staying seated or maintaining bed rest may further deteriorate the musculoskeletal system and do more harm than good to the body.
A degenerative mechanism called "deconditioning" results from prolonged inactivity. It’s characterized by the weakening of the muscles and bones as an adaptation to the decreased demands of the physical body (especially in extended rest). Severe cases of deconditioning may lead to muscle atrophy and bone loss.
Active movement must be maintained for the body to retain its strength and range of motion. Below are some stretches and exercises that are specifically aimed at reducing pressure on the sacroiliac joint and training muscle groups in the sacral region.
● Aerobic exercises – Activities that engage the whole body such as low-impact aerobic exercises (in the form of brisk walking, dancing, etc.) must increase the heart rate for at least 20 minutes. This will improve circulation, bring adequate oxygen to all parts of the body, and aid in tissue healing.
● Targeted muscle stretches – Examples of these include hamstring stretches, quadricep stretches, knee-to-chest stretches. Most muscle stretches under this category may be done while lying down on a level surface. They work to relieve tension in muscle groups that strain the sacroiliac joint. Stretches may be done even between episodes of sacroiliac joint pain.
● Strengthening exercises – Simple positions such as glute bridges and the bird dog yoga pose may strengthen the lower back area and increase its capacity to support one's body weight while also training for core strength and balance. These positions are held for a few seconds each and may be multiple sets may be repeated a few times per day.
6. Incorporate a daily multivitamin into your routine
While a balanced diet may already provide an adequate amount of vitamins and nutrients for an individual to be adequately healthy, multivitamin supplementation may serve as a safety net when one’s food intake falls short of daily vitamin requirements. Although this will not work as a quick fix for sacroiliac joint pain, it may achieve fewer inflammatory problems in the long run.
The vitamins listed below are said to improve musculoskeletal health.
1. Vitamin D – aids in the absorption of calcium to the bone to ensure strength and avoid fractures
2. Vitamin E – encourages tissue healing in the sacroiliac region and regulates immune system function to prevent excess inflammation
3. Vitamin B12 – increases energy levels and keeps the nervous system and blood cells functional
It is important to always consult a physician before taking any multivitamins to guarantee the optimal benefit of the dosage one will be taking.
7. Take a break from activities that increase inflammation
Inflammation may result from excessively strenuous activities like sports, lifting large loads, heavy housework, and many others. Pain is more likely to occur if these are done without warming up the muscles and the joints.
It is best to take a break from activities when pain is felt in its early stages. However, if these activities are unavoidable due to professional or personal reasons, strategies must be used to decrease their impact on the sacroiliac joints. One simple yet effective strategy is to wisely space tasks or activities.
Though sometimes tempting, getting all of your strenuous tasks done in one go is not necessarily the best idea. To avoid sacroiliac joint pain or hip and leg pain, try to space out activities throughout the day or week. This allows time for the joints and muscles to rest and recover between work and enables a person to do more in the long run because of less exertion.
8. Try posture training
The strenuous activities mentioned above most commonly cause sacroiliac joint pain, but the position of our bodies while we are sitting, standing still, or even sleeping also has an impact on inflammation taking place in the lower back region.
Posture and positioning determine how evenly weight is distributed to supporting structures including the muscles, bones, and joints. Poor sitting, standing, and sleeping posture may lead to excess tension and pressure on the sacroiliac joint, increasing pain and inflammation due to strain.
Posture training can be performed with the use of items or areas accessible in the household. For instance, straight-backed chairs or walls may be used for seated-back exercises. Simple awareness exercises that do not require any equipment (like imagining being pulled up from a string tied to the top of the head) may work just as well when done regularly and mindfully.
9. Topical pain relief products (creams, gels, and rubs)
Topical pain relief products are medications made for external use. They may be in the form of creams, ointments, gels, and rubs that lessen pain through anti-inflammatory compounds or by stimulating sensations that divert from pain perception.
Search for ‘pain management near me’ in a Google search bar and a listing of top websites for pain management clinics or topical pain relief products can be seen.
As these are applied directly over the site of pain, they are expected to have fewer side effects as they do not circulate systemically or throughout the body. Those who cannot tolerate ice/heat applications or the non-habit-forming oral medications as mentioned may consider topical pain relief applications as a more favorable option.
An additional benefit from this method of analgesia is that it allows a person to give their lower back a gentle and soothing massage while delivering the medication where it directly needs to be.
Topical ingredients for pain relief
Examples of active ingredients found in topical pain relief products are listed below.
1. Menthol – Common topical products that contain menthol include Absorbine Jr. and Bengay. While they do not target the origin of pain and inflammation, they cause a soothing cold sensation that works against the sensations of warmth associated with swelling.
2. Topical preparations of NSAIDs – Ibuprofen, and diclofenac have gel preparations for those who would not want to risk the gastrointestinal side effects of oral NSAIDs. Like oral NSAIDs, topical NSAIDs inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins in the site of pain.
3. Capsaicin – This active substance that is found in chili peppers is also used for topical pain relief. In contrast with menthol, capsaicin causes a warm, burning, or tingling sensation on the site it is applied over to divert pain perception.
Mild to moderate sacroiliac joint pain may benefit from these easy-to-apply medications. More severe pain may require more aggressive pain relief measures like steroidal injections for the sacroiliac joint or even surgery.
10. Wearing an SI joint belt
As one of the mechanisms involved in sacroiliac joint pain is unwanted movement and excessive weight-bearing, the main goal of wearing a sacroiliac joint belt (SI belt) is to stabilize the pelvic girdle, lessening and improving load transfer across the lower back region.
Many individuals who have worn SI joint belts say that it has resulted in an almost instant improvement in the way they walk and use the muscles attached to the sacroiliac region.
The amount of time SI joint belts must be worn depends on the severity of sacroiliac joint pain experienced by the wearer. To make everyday use both physically and aesthetically comfortable, some SI belts are made to be worn under clothes and are made with material that does not irritate the skin despite prolonged wearing.
Collaborative Efforts to Fight Pain
Medical treatment must be sought if there is a constant experience of SI joint pain symptoms such as unilateral or bilateral pain below the belt-line that is worsened by movement and activity. Illnesses such as these are best managed collaboratively by the healthcare team, the patient, and the members of their household.
In cases in which physicians are not readily available to assess an individual experiencing pain, any of the aforementioned home remedies will be useful if done in conjunction with physical, medical, and occupational therapies.
Equipped for Home Pain Management
Managing any type of pain, especially when it is a chronic condition, may cause numerous disruptions to daily life. This necessitates the alternative methods of pain management stated above. Quick, easy, and approved by trusted doctors, anyone can achieve effective pain management in their very own home.